Agincourt was platted in 1853, shortly after the formation of Fennimore county, and incorporated as a city four years later. The county seat (and presumably the site of the first county fairs) was at Muskrat City, south of Agincourt. But the flatland site and regular flooding there forced the commission to relocate to Agincourt. Such maneouvers are often more political than strategic, but that’s a tale for another day.
County agricultural societies often incorporated in tandem with county formation as agents for information, promotion and economic development. Like the county courthouse, the fairgrounds was a valuable asset for the city that possessed it. Since courthouse and fairgrounds aren’t always in the same city, Agincourt has been fortunate.
So, as a point of departure, let’s set the process in motion, identify the site and pose some relevant questions.
- The Fennimore county Agricultural Society is roughly contemporary with the establishment of Agincourt, circa 1853.
- The fair site in the northeast quarter of the section adjacent to Agincourt measured slightly more than 100 acres on the west bank of the Muskrat river. The wiggle of the Agincourt Road right-of-way was also a minor factor.
- At some point Agincourt Road was rerouted northwest toward the east-west route of State Highway #7, which cut off roughly one third of the fairgrounds. Therefore…
- A trade was negotiated with the adjacent farm, that had likewise been cut apart. The resulting triangular fairgrounds extends seven-eighths of a mile west of the Muskrat and slightly less than a quarter mile along its bank.
- It is likely that the original fair entrance had been near the Agincourt Road bridge (at the fairgrounds’ southeast corner) but was relocated to the north side along Highway #7 with the advent of the automobile.
When did all this happen?
In addition to the fair’s own internal evolution, there are a few peripheral factors likely to have influenced its growth:
- Some sort of county or state institution was established across the Muskrat in far northwestern Agincourt (the purple area on the map above). Unspecified at first (perhaps an orphanage, home for the aged or for Civil War veterans), it morphed about WWI into a normal school or state teacher training college. It seems likely the college athletic facilities expanded across the river onto fair property as shared resources.
- Since fair activities are often restricted to the late summer harvest season, what efforts were made to extend its “season” and expand its use for the community. A chautauqua grounds would be a compatible function.
- When the electric street railway opened circa 1898, it would have been natural to establish a seasonal line to the fairgrounds for passengers, as well as a route for occasional deliveries by rail.
- And finally, the Agincourt Archers is a Double-A baseball team. Would their playing field have been on the fairgrounds?
County fairs are a distincly American phenomenon, with a wide variety of types depening on location and age. I wonder what the interweb has to offer.